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Non-Prog CD Reviews

John Flynn


Review by Gary Hill

I've been a fan of John Flynn since I first heard him on NPR many years back. His brand of folk music is really steeped in the traditions and textures of the 1960s and 1970s folk scene. This is his latest release. It continues his track-record of producing great music. In fact, I'd say that this is one of his best.

I suppose one thing should be addressed here. A lot of this album is unapologetically topical and political with a liberal leaning to it. I can't imagine anyone faulting folk music for being political, though. Honestly, it has almost always been political. Seriously, I can come up with a lot of examples of liberal leaning folk music, but can't think of any that leans the other way. I'm not saying there isn't any, but I can't think of any off hand. My point is, though, if you have a problem with that, you probably don't really like folk music.

It shouldn't matter whether you agree with the viewpoint or not, if you appreciate the art and the free-speech aspect of it. I guess if you also agree, it becomes a more powerful statement, though. With all that out of the way, if you are going to be easily offended by political views other than your own, you probably want to look the other way when certain songs here start playing. That's your loss, though, because if you can get past your thin skin, you'll find some great music delivered with a real passion.

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Track by Track Review
Let in the Song
There is a dreamy kind of vibe to this song. The vocals feel like a lower register Arlo Guthrie style. The song has such a killer slow moving flow to it, feeling like it sways from side to side.
The title track, there is a bit darker edge as the more rocking acoustic guitar brings this into being. There is a lot more of a country edge to this. There is a cool edge to this piece and some great electric guitar work. There are some decidedly catchy hooks built into this number, too.
Sing Me on My Way (featuring Arlo Guthrie, Kris Kristofferson, Kathy Mattea, Billy Swan and others)
I'm a huge fan of Arlo Guthrie, so this song gets high ratings from me for his inclusion here. The track starts with acoustic guitar, harmonica and slide guitar bringing some definite traditional edge to it. It's more of a balladic cut that's very pretty. This really feels like something that would have been right at home in the 1970s. I love the guest appearances on the chorus near the end, but this is really a magic song from start to finish. It closes with some acapella measures that are faded down to end it.
Heart of a Lion
Starting on acoustic guitar, electric guitar rises up to drive the point home. This is a country tinged rocking folk tune that's powerful. I love the decidedly country based guitar solo, too.
One Fine Boat
A much mellower cut, this really reminds me of both Arlo Guthrie and Gordon Lightfoot in a lot of ways. It's intricate and so pretty. It's also another tune that feels like some long lost classic from the 1970s.
She Persisted
Another classic folk tune, the arrangement on this is so powerful. The title should explain it, but if you missed it, this is a decidedly topical song. However you slice it, though, this is poignant song that's delivered with style.
Church of the Broken Sidewalks
Acoustic guitar driven, this is a mellower folk number that's also classic in nature. It gets pretty developed and powerful before it's over and done.
Take It Down (Uncivil War)
The first is delivered just over percussive elements. It gets more developed after that with guitar and other elements added to the mix. this is other particularly potent and classic tune. I like it a lot. It brings some variety and a lot of substance at the same time. There is a cool spoken section, too.
I love the slow moving acoustic basis of this song. It's another classic folk music sound to it.
Today I Am a Muslim
With a lot of country music built into it, this is another that is decidedly topical and political. It gets a bit of a parental advisory, too.
Three Blank Pages
I love the acoustic guitar sound that begins this track. This is a decidedly mellow and pretty song that gets some minor augmentation, but mostly remains focused on that acoustic guitar and Flynn's voice. The song is evocative and powerful.
This Used to Be a Country
A classic folk styled song, this is another topical one. In this case it talks of better times when the country was something different. It has some catchy hooks and great energy. It's one of the highlights and shows off some country elements at times. There is another spoken section built into this tune.
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